Opinion: CJ2K does much more than boost the Jets run attack

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

With the simple words “of” “course” and “me,” Chris Johnson ignited the web while a guest on NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek Podcast by suggesting that he could beat Mike Vick in a footrace.

A footrace that Vick supposedly won a year ago against the future 2013 rushing champion LeSean McCoy.

While Johnson might not be getting younger, his 40 time still tops the NFL Combine’s fastest. But how effective can be really be for the Jets this season?

NFL: New York Jets-Minicamp“He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told reporters this past week.

Kind words, but realistic or the encouragement of his offensive coach? What about what he can do for the Jets this season? Johnson may have had a messy separation from the Tennessee Titans, but is he washed up as many critics claim?

“I still think he’s one of the best running backs in the league,” former Jet (and Hall of Fame running back) Curtis Martin in the past week. “I’ll say this: He has as much talent as anyone in the league … he’s unique because, at any moment, he can score.”

While the 2013 NFL draft class of running backs might end up proving to be one of the stronger groups in the last decade, this year’s crop seems to be coming into the league with less fanfare and saw the Jets wisely invest in a proven commodity for an offense in dire needs of upgrades. But is it enough to help the Jets and their offense that has been reliant on the run, especially with a young quarterback of questionable pedigree leading the group during all of head coach Rex Ryan’s tenure with the Jets?

In the NFL when opponents know to gameplan for a particular strength of another team, there’s two main ways for that team to deal with what that opponent might bring. The first is to use deception to mask aspects of the team’s strength. A second, is that the team can double down on that strength daring teams to beat them.

This offseason the Jets doubled down by signing Chris Johnson on a long-known emphasis of Rex Ryan’s Jets; the team’s running attack. Under Rex Ryan, the Jets have long espoused the importance of a running game. The defensive-minded coach knows that come December (and January) passing attacks can be relied on less in the intense cold. Since Rex Ryan took over the team, there’s only been one year in which the Jets didn’t finish somewhere in the top ten in rushing attempts. That year? 2011, the same year in which the team — and their quarterback — began coming apart at the seams after the early success of the Ryan-Sanchez era.

Over the last two years, Bilal Powell has proven competent mortar to the running back position – filling in wherever necessary. Powell is a jack-of-all-trades; able to either play the perimeter and catch the ball out of the backfield or run between the tackles. Last year, once healthy Chris Ivory gave the Jets a punishing, though predictable attack against opposing interiors. Ivory continued in the tradition that Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene had filled.

What the Jets lacked in 2013 was a blazingly fast and dynamic running back that could burn a defense on any play should teams put less than eight in the box. During free agency, the Jets were known to be keeping their attention on dynamic players in free agency and were clearly waiting out the Chris Johnson situation and investing $4 million a year in 2014 to bring the former Titan to their offense.

Last season, Johnson caught 42 passes, equal to all the team’s halfbacks (Powell – 36, Ivory -2 , Green – 2, Goodson – 2) and did so for almost 50 more yards. Do the Jets think that he’ll be worth the investment? Rich Cimini of ESPN NY wrote about Chris Johnson this past week:

Anticipating his release, the Jets did a lot of tape study on Johnson. What they saw was a still-gifted back who was restricted by a bum knee and a mediocre offensive line in Tennessee. Doctors took care of the knee, repairing a torn meniscus with an arthroscopic procedure in January. Now it’ll be up to the Jets’ line to take care of the blocking.

Johnson’s demonstrated durability make the gamble on his knee an educated one for the Jets.

“That guy, he’s one of the best,” former teammate and Titans cornerback Jason McCourty told ESPN New York last week. “A lot of people have talked about how he’s lost it. I think he’ll get out there and prove he hasn’t lost a step and can still play.”

Calling the Tennessee offensive line mediocre might be kind to Tennessee, but it’s insult to mediocrity. Football Outsiders ranked the Titans run blocking 19th in 2013, 31st in 2012, 32nd in 2011 and 31st in 2010.  The Titans are finally addressing the long-term nature of the group, but it has been one of the league’s worst lines dating back four years and yet Johnson has stayed in the lineup posting 1,000 yard seasons each year.

If the run blocking of Johnson’s offensive line is what’s being measured (and he has played for one of the league’s worst units) then moving to the Jets would almost assuredly be an upgrade for Johnson using the concept of regression to the mean; Johnson should be more effective and productive with a better run-blocking unit ahead of him. LaDainian Tomlinson experienced a similar short-lived boost to his play when he came to New York and it is fair to assume that Johnson could too.

Johnson must be sensing the same thing and thinks his superior skills coupled with the line ahead of him will lead to good things.

“Once the season starts and once we’re playing and I’m doing my thing, I’m pretty sure if I’m making plays they’re going to want to keep handing the ball off to me,” Johnson told NFL.com’s Around the League last Tuesday. “If they want me to continue making plays, I’m pretty sure I can’t do that if I’m on the sideline.”

In 2013, Johnson ranked third in terms of how many times opponents stacked the box with eight man fronts. An incredible statistic when you consider the weakness of the Titans offensive line. Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore were the only two players to see more eight man fronts.

This bodes well for Johnson’s foray with the Jets, but also for the team’s quarterback. With Johnson on the field, defenses will be forced to pay attention to him and to bring one of their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, which will in turn make life easier for Geno Smith. With an extra safety in the box, Smith will (1) have a sure-handed and dynamic plamaker on dump-offs should the play break down (2) have a better chance at scrambling for yards provided he keeps track of the box safety and (3) gain better looks for his receivers with a weakened zone coverage.

The last point is very important for Eric Decker. Many consider Decker a good receiver, but not a great one. Pulling an extra coverage man out of the secondary means that the Jets might be that much more likely to scheme plays in which he or his WR2 can see more single coverage. The boost Chris Johnson provides to the running attack is the primary benefit, but if Smith can do a better job at reading the play, or use his feet to buy time for his receivers, Geno’s passing game could be much improved.




419 comments
Daniel Diffin
Daniel Diffin

Absolutely agree with everything BB said--I thought this was an outstanding signing for the Jets. Just one thing to add: Johnson has been exceptionally durable since entering the league--he plays 16 games, come what may. How important is that, when the Jets other main RB is known for getting injured? As much as I like Bilal Powell, there is a big drop-off in productivity between Ivory and him. With Ivory and Powell as the main RB's, they were one very predictable injury away from having a mediocre running attack. With Johnson on board, they've got Thunder and Lightening--and a very big insurance policy against the inevitable Ivory injury.

kniff
kniff

The recent and very welcome hype on Chris Johnson has me ramped up, but not enough to make me forget my favorite "Bull in the China Shop" Chris Ivory... 

with Powell quite qualified to give our two stud RBs a rest now and again, we are in good shape to say:

Can't wait!!!

BDarc23
BDarc23

There is much anger on TJB today. That leads to the dark side.

BDarc23
BDarc23

I'll predict CJ will run for 1100 yds and 50 catches for 400yds probably 10 tds total. Ivory will add another 750 yds rushing and probably 5 tds

williamg1
williamg1

@kniff Ivory runs with violence. He's either going to kill someone, or kill himself. 

Steven Windeler
Steven Windeler

@BDarc23  That's fear that leads to the dark side. Fear-jealousy-anger. We're already at stage 3.

tsjc68
tsjc68

@BDarc23

You like the dark side?  TYPICAL NBPP TALK FROM BDARC.

Brendan
Brendan

@BDarc23 This is all your fault. Throwing predictions out there all loosey goosey. For shame!

Brendan
Brendan

@BDarc23 Last year the team ran for 2,158 yards on 493 carries (4.4), and had 2,932 yards passing on 480 attempts (5.6 Y/A). 


Let's say they stay pretty evenly split, with the scales this year tipping in favor of the pass slightly. That means there is somewhere around 450 carries. I'd say that's plenty to break it up the way you laid out. Factor in a couple hundred yards for Geno, plus some misc. yards for the #3/#4 RB's and we're in business. 

a57se
a57se

@BDarc23 

I really hope someone is keeping track of all these predictions!

tsjc68
tsjc68

@BDarc23

Will there be enough carries left over for them after Sheldon Richardson breaks Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record?

Tooned In
Tooned In

@Brendan @kniff Awesome run Ivory gets in despite Santonio's joke of a blocking attempt.


Watching the replay you see how #11 is pumped and all into the play where #10 is just standing there doing basically nothing. 


So happy we still have #11 and all the fresh blood that Idzik has brought in. 



BDarc23
BDarc23

@Brendan @BDarc23 When tsjc68 does his 53 man roster predictions he gets "likes" all over the place.

BDarc23
BDarc23

@a57se @BDarc23 These are my pre training camp predictions so not worth much but still fun

Brendan
Brendan

@kniff Yeah, I figured it might be nice to remember why exactly we're all here. 

tsjc68
tsjc68

@BDarc23 @tsjc68
I still have no idea what their "manifesto" is that a57se says I'm parroting.


Because, for all intents and purposes, the NBPP is basically something that only exists in Fox News's fever dreams.  It's basically a non-entity not worth taking seriously (like the Black Israelites), unless you're Sean Hannity, in which case you think it's a massive and influential organization that all black people swear fealty to and sit around discussing at our black dinner parties, reading from the latest NBPP talking points missive.


I'll leave you with two lines from the NBPP Wiki article:


As of 2009, the NBPP claimed a few thousand members organized in 45 chapters, while independent estimates by the Anti-Defamation League suggest that the group is much smaller but is nevertheless able to attract a large turnout of non-members (some of whom may not even realize what this group actually stands for) to its events by focusing on specific issues of local interest.


and 


Members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that the newer party is illegitimate and have firmly declared, "There is no new Black Panther Party".


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Black_Panther_Party

Brendan
Brendan

@BDarc23 Well I just gave you one, maybe that will turn the tides on this nightmare. 

SackDance99
SackDance99

@BDarc23 @Brendan I'm not sure total plays correlates to a good offense.  For instance, MM's worst year with the Eagles was 2012 and that was also the year with the most plays, 1079.  I'd guess somewhere between 1,000-1050 is likely where the Jets would be...a slight uptick.

Brendan
Brendan

@BDarc23 Unless I'm assuming a more efficient offense, so we're using less wasted plays. 

a57se
a57se

@BDarc23 @a57se 

Let me try:

I predict Stephen Hill will catch 51 balls for 918 Yards and 7 TD's!

Oh, that WAS fun!

Paul Samuels
Paul Samuels

@a57se @brendan @kniff Geno has the talent to at least be a middle of the pack QB. I'm thinking top 15 QB in the next 2 years. He just needs time. 

williamg1
williamg1

@tsjc68 @BDarc23 Doesn't NBPP go by ACORN these days? And, isn't there a direct link between the NBPP and Benghazi?


I spelled that wrong. Its actually "BENGHAZI!!!!1111!!!!!!!aaaARGH!!!11!!!!!!!"

harold
harold

@Brendan @BDarc23

I stick by my updated prediction of 1,100 yards for Ivory

1,000 rushing for Johnson

300 for Geno

200 for Powell

williamg1
williamg1

@a57se @BDarc23 You do realize that, much like The Price is Right, if you overbid, you automatically lose. 

So I'm going to predict Stephan Hill for 1 yard. 

__fense
__fense

@ganggrncap @Brendan I noticed that. He was going right for the football, trying to force a fumble, but Ivory wasn't going to let him. 

tsjc68
tsjc68

@a57se @tsjc68 @BDarc23

Black people do not care about the New Black Panther Party, a57se.


Let me say that louder so you can hear it:


Black people do not care about the New Black Panther Party.


If they have a manifesto, we haven't read it.  If they have public leaders or speakers, we haven't heard them.  If they've lead rallies, we didn't go to them.  If they've joined the public debate, we weren't there.


Nobody takes them seriously, except for Fox News, who takes them way too seriously, since nobody else takes them seriously.


I know who Bobby Seale is.  I read his book.  I shook his hand.  I respect what he has to say, because he went through the struggle and has valuable insight for it.


I have no idea who the @#% Khalid Abdul Muhammad and Malik Zulu Shabazz are, dude.  Nobody does, except for the morons on Fox News who keep clutching their pearls as if the NBPP has any societal relevance.


-------------------


The only people who ever mention the NBPP are racist white people who want to act like the NBPP is a thing that actually matters, because they're insane racist white people uninterested in actually having an intelligent conversation about anything.


-------------------


The fact that you MENTIONED this dog-whistle term used only by white racists and that you, the other day, said "But black people sold other black people as slaves in Africa" as a defense for whatever the hell you were trying to say, those are classic textbook examples of white racism.


You're a racist, dude.

levi
levi

@williamg1  For the record if I was ever on the Price is Right and somebody bid $1 and beat me I would in turn beat them.

tsjc68
tsjc68

@levi @williamg1

The best is when the second-to-last guy bids $1, and then the last guy bids $2.


THAT'S EPIC.

levi
levi

@tsjc68  Ive never seen that happen. I bet he waits in the parking lot for the other person though. You know Bob encourages that sort of thing.

a57se
a57se

@jsadolph 

So Geno is going to throw for 3,881 Yards with 28TD's just to his WR's???

WOW...like the Eagles sang, You're ALREADY GONE!

BDarc23
BDarc23

@tsjc68 @levi Yes, it does happen. They will for example have bids of 450, 451, 452 and then 453.

juunit
juunit

@Brendan @juunit 

I just saw an article that said Pink Floyd has a new album coming out in October. 


I can't tell if it's just a remastering of unreleased stuff or if it's really a new album though.

Brendan
Brendan

@juunit Remastering of unreleased stuff that doesn't include Roger Waters. 


In other words "David Gilmour needs a cash grab and this is the final nail in the coffin at any type of PF reuinion show until the entire band is dead." 


Yay. 

Brendan
Brendan

@BDarc23 Damn, people are really hating on the Jets this offseason. It's getting ridiculous. 

coryv
coryv

@a57se @Brendan 57, I have not seen you present ANY facts...just opinions and defense of BS for something that was off base...and if I'm not mistake it was you who started with the name calling...